AMA Straddles the 'Public Plan' Option
The doctors' group remains wary of a government-based health care option.
June 17, 2009— -- The American Medical Association did not ring up a "no sale" on President Barack Obama's public plan option in his proposed revamp of the United States health care system, but neither did it sign on the dotted line.
After listening to Obama's words as he spoke to the 535-member house of delegates on Monday, the AMA today voted to "support health system reform alternatives that are consistent with AMA principles of pluralism, freedom of choice, freedom of practice, and universal access for patients."
The AMA initially considered -- then rejected -- a resolution from the Kansas State Medical Society that asked it to oppose the Medicare-like coverage plan for Americans of any age, the so-called public plan option.
In its place, the delegates were urged to support this substitute resolution a substitute resolution stating that the AMA supports " 'public option' alternatives that are consistent with AMA principles of pluralism, freedom of choice, freedom of practice, and universal access for patients."
But today, the delegates balked at including the words "public option" in AMA policy, substituting "health system reform."
In an email, Dr. Donald Palmisano, a Metairie, La., surgeon and former president of the AMA, said the vote today came after "much debate and two reconsiderations yesterday and today."
Palmisano, who has openly opposed the public plan option, called the result a "fascinating example of democracy and debate in action. "
It was also an example of wordsmithing designed to guarantee that the AMA will maintain its seat at the table while critical negotiations continue in Washington, yet at the same time convincing the AMA hardliners that the organization was not giving ground on a contentious issue.
AMA spokesperson Robert Mills described today's action this way: "Delegates decided today to broaden the policy, given the lack of details for 'public option' health insurance."
In a prepared statement, Dr. Nancy Nielsen, the AMA's immediate past president, said the AMA welcomed "and will thoughtfully consider all proposals consistent with AMA principles to provide Americans with affordable, high-quality health coverage."